Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed. PS3 (reviewed), Xbox 360, Wii U, PS Vita, 3DS. Rating: 10/10
Another day, another cute karting game? Actually no. Sonic the Hedgehog's latest outing is the karting game of the year, if not the decade so far. Traditionally, video games have been packaged up with cover art of a quality which far exceeds anything you'll find in the game – in this case it's the reverse.
The graphics in Racing Transformed are simply jaw-dropping. There are around two dozen characters to choose from before your race begins, selected from Sega's huge back catalogue of arcade hits, and each gets his or her own bespoke vehicle which can transform into a boat or aircraft depending on the terrain.
These are beautifully animated in their own right but it's the tracks that really stand out. Each is based on a Sega game too, so for the Afterburner circuit you'll find yourself thundering down the decks of massive aircraft carriers before taking to the air and soaring over a vast naval fleet far below.
The Super Monkey Ball track has slaloms of lovely crystal clear water, a whirlpool you can see the bottom of through the turbulent waters and hordes of monkeys cheering you on.
You get to race through the innards of a Las Vegas-style gambling machine, dodging piles of chips, and through whirling rainbow coloured spaceships on a track which builds itself seconds before you pass over it on the Galactic Parade level.
Your car's handling is never less than excellent and there are dozens of different trophies to unlock, bumper stickers to earn, level-ups to achieve and details to discover.
On a race with three laps, each lap will be different as the track moves and shifts around you. There are lots of shortcuts to find and the sheer level of background details is astonishing. You could race on the same level a dozen times and still spot something new.
The weapons you get are novel – enabling you to set swarms of angry bees on your opponents, or stick a flying blowfish in their path – and the racetrack's own hazards are a visual spectacle in themselves. Sometimes, as you zoom over a stretch of water, you'll be shadowed by large stingrays just below the surface. Big waves roll up and you hop realistically over them, giant stone wheels roll across the track to crush the unwary and sections of track collapse unexpectedly, causing your vehicle to abruptly transform into its aircraft mode – and forcing you to suddenly adjust to having the up/down controls as well as left and right.
The game is huge, too. In addition to the many tracks of World Tour mode, there's Grand Prix, time attack, single player and, naturally, the online modes.
This feels like an arcade classic in the making and wipes the floor with all opposition.